Historic items to move to new location

The concrete block building will more than double the size of BCHS storage space

The concrete block building will more than double the size of BCHS storage space

November 28, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Don C. Wood, outgoing president of the Berkeley County Historical Society, is organizing one last "moving party" for the preservation group he has led for about 30 years.

On Dec. 29 and 30, Wood, 76, hopes to have a cadre of volunteers on hand to help move historic materials from the organization's Archives and Research Center and Belle Boyd House and Museum into what was a blighted concrete block building built nearly 70 years ago for a hairdressing business.

"When we bought it, the roofing was caving in," Wood said of the property at 233 N. Spring St. "It had one floor ... and most of it was in the basement."

A climate-control system was being installed last week while Wood gave a tour of the property, which also required sidewalk, roof and masonry work, and new flooring and entrances.


Dry chemical fire control systems still need to be installed, but Wood said the historical society does not have the money to purchase them yet and is asking the community for donations.

"The last time we got an estimate, (it was going to cost) $8,000 for each floor," Wood said. "Yeah, not cheap."

The additional climate-controlled storage space appears to be more than double the size of the vault-like storage area on the first floor of the Berkeley County Archives and Research Center at 136 E. Race St., which is next door.

The historical society was "lucky" to receive a donation of 210 filing cabinets, more than 60 metal shelves and a "wonderful" map cabinet from Howard Shockey & Sons Inc., Wood said.

Wood said the storage building will house some prized records and also free up attic space in the childhood home of Confederate spy Belle Boyd at 126 E. Race St.

"The attic is overstored," Wood said, laughing.

The historical society's latest project continues the transformation of an area of town that began about 18 years ago with the restoration of the Belle Boyd House, which was slated for demolition.

"My sister and I were over there when we got the Belle Boyd House ... and we were up there sanding the window sills and we seen the ... riff-raff that was in the bushes here and so forth ..." Wood recalled. "This all was grown up ... It wasn't a very nice area."

After paying off a $65,000 loan on the Belle Boyd House in 1999, the historical society took out a $50,000 loan to buy a mid-19th century merchant's brick home for a genealogy and historic archives research center.

After the research center note was paid off in 2005, the organization subsequently borrowed another $50,000 for the current project, Wood said.

As the Archives and Research Center was taking shape, Wood and other volunteers transformed a vacant lot next to the building into an herb garden. Wood said he still hopes to develop a map and a booklet for people to learn about the plants and what applications they have been used for.

Wood's historic preservation efforts were recognized earlier this month by Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, who honored Wood with a resolution of appreciation for his work to restore and rebuild Morgan Cabin and his leadership of the Berkeley County Historic Landmarks Commission.

As for future expansion, Wood said that would have to wait because the historical society still has about $45,000 to pay on the loan for the new storage facility. But Wood admitted he still has his eye on at least one, albeit remote, possibility -- The Union Sales Co. building nearby on North Queen Street.

"That would make an excellent museum," Wood said.

In May, Chrysler announced it was closing its dealership at Union Sales, and owner B.A. "Buzz" Poland since decided to close the remaining portion of the business in the circa-1920s building.

"You could display cars, wagons, all that kind of stuff (inside), which we can not display anything like that here," Wood said.

For more information about the Berkeley County Historical Society, call 304-267-4713 or go to

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